Post-Execution Debate Continues

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Donald Beaty

Arizona executed Donald Edward Beaty May 26 but that doesn’t mean the legal wrangling has stopped.  Beaty challenged Arizona’s last minute switch in the drug cocktail used for lethal injection but the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals refused to reconsider his case the execution went ahead. Then one day later, Chief Judge Alex Kozinski issued an opinion explaining why it was ok, but Judge Stephen Reinhardt responded with his own dissent contending the court should have examined the issue.

Kozinski said that although Arizona substituted pentobarbital for sodium thiopental as the first of the three-drug combination in the execution protocol just 18 hours before the execution, two other circuits, (the 10th and 11th Circuits,) had approved similar substitutions.  There was no reason for the 9th Circuit to “delay the inevitable,” he wrote. 

But Reinhardt was having none of it.  It is not at all unusual for circuits to have differences of opinion.  That is one of the things the U.S. Supreme Court exists, to resolve the circuit conflicts, he noted.  And the death penalty is no slip-and-fall case. 

When the state changes its method of execution 18 hours before the irreversible act, the defendant should have time to prepare his challenge.  Beaty did not and was thus deprived of his due process rights, wrote Reinhardt.

Sodium thiopental has been controversial in recent years because it has become scarce in the U.S. and efforts to buy supplies overseas have been turned down by some manufacturers.

Beaty, an apartment complex custodian, was sentenced to die for the 1984 rape and murder of a 13-year-old girl.  He was accused of grabbing the girl from her Tempe, Arizona newspaper route. 

  Case: Beaty v. Brewer, No. 11-99007 (9th Circuit)

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